My experience at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee dates to 1985, when I enrolled in Biblical Hebrew classes in what was then known as the Hebrew Studies Department. At the time, I had been out of college for a few years (having originally been a student in the arts: painting, music, and film). I had just finished reading a small book entitled Teach Yourself Biblical Hebrew and I had found myself eager to know more. After enrolling in the Department, I quickly found my passion for the languages and histories of the ancient world. Under the guidance of the Chair, Prof. Alan Corré, I soon began an ambitious program. I took a number of Hebrew language classes with Prof. Corré, enrolled in Aramaic and Semitic grammar courses with Prof. Bernard Grossfeld, and supplemented my language study with Arabic and French. I then diversified my research interests by adding a two-tiered degree in History (Medieval and Modern European Intellectual History) and by taking on a Program Certificate in North African and Middle Eastern Studies.
In those days the department was housed in Holton Hall. It was a faculty of only a few, but it was incredibly vibrant and effective. Profs. Corré and Grossfeld also taught courses on the history of the Holocaust, the Literature of Modern Israel, and a wide variety of courses related to the Hebrew Bible. My course work and training made possible several grants from the Wisconsin Society for Jewish Learning, the John and Sylvia Laiken Prize in Semitic Studies, and in my final year of study, the McGovern Award Best History Student Paper and the Menachem Mansoor Award for Excellence in Semitic Studies. Upon graduation in 1989, I was accepted on scholarship to Cornell University, where I completed my M.A. (1992) and Ph.D. (1994) in Semitic Languages and Literatures. Today I currently serve as Professor of Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Studies and as Chair of the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle.
I could not have obtained my academic goals without the support of the Hebrew Studies Department and especially the unwavering encouragement of Prof. Corré, whose mentorship and deep friendship remain with me to this day. I think back upon my undergraduate life in the Hebrew Studies Department with fondness and in gratitude. It has left an indelible impression on me and it has been formative in the direction my career has taken. Though the Department no longer exists, the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies is well positioned to build upon its long and honored tradition of excellence and to enjoy the continued success of its faculty, students, and alumni.